Ciaafrique catched up with accessory designers a few days ago and asked a few questions about her work and her journey as designer.
Ciaa: Hi Doreen thank you so much for your time.Tell us a bit about yourselfDoreen:I was born and raised in
Ciaa:How did you get into designing? And why shoes, handbags and accessories ?Doreen:I have always been a follower of fashion, and worked in the industry part-time while I was a student. Then later, working in the finance sector in the division of luxury goods, I was exposed to the creative processes of the World’s top designers – Tods, Gucci, Burberrys – and gained a behind-the-scene appreciation of what drives the luxury goods market, the essence of its global allure and its cultural power of influence. Coming back home to Tanzania, having time away from familiarity and everything I’d previously taken for granted, I realized just how much wealth Africa possesses in terms of inspiration and materials.
Ciaa:…..And why shoes, handbags and accessories ?
Doreen:Apart from the likelihood of footwear being the leading and most utilised accessory when cross-gender utility is considered, shoes, in my view offer a unique template for the expression of design versatility. Further to creative Kanga and Kitenge products, of which there has traditionally been a relative abundance in the marketplace, accessories such as the ones I make permit me a greater display of the unconventional use of exotic and traditional signature materials and prints, perhaps not any where seen, and especially particular to the Tanzanian culture.
Ciaa:How would you describe your own personal style?
Doreen:It’s the very -world travelers look- For example. When I am in Masaai land I would be in glass beads. I have to wear less though because the my masaai ladies always have a surprise gift for me to wear when I visit them during production,but again if you would spot me Stone Town I would be in my Swahili vintage look and in New York, London or Capetown it would be something else.
Ciaa:What is the most interesting aspect of your job? And the worst?
Doreen:Its very interesting exchanging the know and how with the masaai women who do all my bead work and at times it has become challenging to translate a traditional design into modernity
What is also interesting is meeting or getting feedback from consumers. Of recent I have had frequent visits from famous actors or actresses from Hollywood visiting Zanzibar who would just walk into my store and instantly fall in love with my work or at times, I would get emails from big fashion houses (cannot reveal sorry) who would want to see my works when visiting Zanzibar. Having said that there are worse situations I have in my work such as social issues ie. attending a funeral of a worker. Most of the women and men who work for me live with HIV so this really hampers production.
Ciaa:What is the fashion mood inDoreen:
Ciaa:Do you make every piece of your designs or you have other people that helps you as well ?Doreen:Depending on which part of production, but lets say I am involved everywhere during the design process and it is until we get it right when i commence involving others. So I am the designer to quality control manager.
Ciaa:What kind of woman wears your designs?
Ciaa:As you can tell by this blog I am are trying let the world know that
Doreen:Indeed there is a lot of talents amongst many African designers. More and more are discovering an increasing fan-base and market segment that is
Ciaa:What does the word “
Doreen:Depending from which angle one is thinking from but when it comes to fashion then
Ciaa:If you could change one thing in
Doreen:Bureaucracy. There is just too much of it.
Ciaa:Any plans on expending in other African countries or even in the western world?
Doreen:I must say, I’m really happy with how far the label has come, as it has, from mainland Tanzania to the spice Island of Zanzibar and I look forward to its intelligent progression further afield in response to the keen interest I am receiving world-wide. And as I return home from promotional trips in New York, London, Johannesburg and Capetown, I would want the bevy of women weaving the glass beads for the label's products to be as excited to see me each year as the customers who will ultimately wear them And, having been delighted at the terrific response to our shoes, bags and jewellery here in Tanzania, and especially in my own recently opened Doreen Mashika retail outlet in Zanzibar, we are now coming up with an exciting range of unique clothing which was launched at FAFA – Festival for African Fashion and Arts this April – in Nairobi.
Ciaa:What kind advice would give Ciaafrique readers wishing to follow your footsteps?
Doreen:Take pride in the riches your continent has to offer you as a designer – the patterns, colours, techniques, fabrics – offer all the inspiration you could need - but don’t shy away from international trends. And remember, gossip columnists, dedicated fashion bloggers and societal fashion critics are merely the vehicles of expression of their immediate contact point's, thoughts and sentiments...if their word seems to be a fashion certainty, it's probably because they are getting their inspiration from the immediate input sources that surround them. So keep your eyes open to everything around you: perfect that skill and you will build a formidable fashion sense of your own. This more often, than capital, will be the long-stay of your fashion design success.
Ciaa:Sorry to be a little personal here, but what is the one thing you like about yourself?
Doreen:I am quite flexible. For example you could put me in the bush in a mud hut and would still manage to be working on my designs behind my laptop, of course so as long as I am connected to electricity.
Ciaa:What is your dream for your career?
I always believe that nothing is impossible and one can work to get that dream come true. I’m must say, I’m really excited that i didn’t have to wait long into that dream before I made it happen! The Doreen Mashika brand is the result.
Ciaa: Where can our readers reach you to purchase your designs?
Doreen:My works can be purchased in my own recently opened Doreen Mashika retail outlet in Zanzibar, we are now coming up with an exciting range of unique clothing which was launched at FAFA – Festival for African Fashion and Arts this April – in Nairobi. In
Ciaa: Any last word
Ciaa:Thank you very much for taking your time to do this interview , I hope to see you soon on the biggest fashion runways soon
Doreen:Thanks for having me